Purple to Pier? Perhaps we need to request a new name for this race; 71 strong, we were a formidable purple army on the beach at South Shields!
I was a lucky late entrant to Pier to Pier and a first timer. Reveille at 0630hrs provided time for some pre-race sustenance, and then on the road to drop our three children off and shatter the Sunday morning tranquillity for the in-laws.
Trained in the model of 5 P’s, I had studied well the many options that would see me navigate the road network, to arrive around 0845hrs at Roker seafront. The excellent execution of Pier to Pier started here, with a marshall stationed on the roundabout, directing cars into the car-park adjacent to Sunderland Yacht Club. Parking was free! A short walk saw me queue for only a few moments with some other eager participants, and having pre-paid for the bus shuttle to the start, a minibus whisked us away, to arrive at the car park adjacent to the South Pier at South Shields.
After a bit of chat with some other early Striders, and some last minute lace adjustment, the remainder of the Purple posse arrived by coach, including my Minister for Home Affairs, who must have enjoyed some respite from the kids (and me!). Having had some debate about the athletic fit of men’s vests (I shall avoid disclosing more!), and after pointing a few folk in the direction of the loo queues, we proceeded onto the beach.
We assembled on the beach for a team photo. This ended up being a series of photos as more and more Striders appeared over the hill, and perhaps the final shot may not have captured the full might of the Purple army? Tactics for a fast start fell to Mike Parker, who advised that the premier racing line would start from the furthest point at/in the water! A race briefing ensued and having confirmed Bill Ford had a satellite fix, we were off!
Across the beach, through the water, through more water towards the Sand Dancer pub, I decided to abort the beach invasion option to re-join the main throng. With feet feeling a kilo heavier from the sand and water, we climbed onto the top, following part of the Sand Dancer route, climbing gradually towards Souter Lighthouse and enjoying the sea views. The path was part gravel, part grass and fairly flat with a couple of interesting choices, resulting in a temporarily split pack at a couple of points (I’m not sure if there was any merit to any particular diversion but my ploy was to follow the fittest looking runner in front of me!). Souter Lighthouse was just past the 5km point and water was served on the grass just past the wall enclosure. Shouts of encouragement emanated from the play area in front of the lighthouse and by the inclusion of, Striders, and Purple I deduced they were familiar supporters but did not delay to acquaint myself further!
Continuing on, we rounded the headland at Whitburn around which point I remember seeing a pier, and looking at my watch which confirmed around 8km. I subsequently realised this was not the pier I was headed for and mentally dealt with the reality that I had a bit more distance to run. Not long after this point, I remember seeing the welcome sight of Allan Seheult on the coastal path in his Striders t-shirt, encouraging us onward.
The finish flags in sight, we passed benches and people eating ice cream, dropping down onto the beach, to traverse the clumps of seaweed which cleared to pretty clear and firm sand for a bit of an increase in heart rate and a sprint finish. I remember hearing Alister Robson shout, keep the arms going and my head told me to also ensure my legs kept going too.
Across the line, I joined those already finished and our supporters to cheer others on. Having managed to snap a decent action shot of Lesley and her flying feet, I then went to claim my race bag. The handcrafted glass finisher ornament was a really nice touch and the contents of the race bag of high quality but in my rush to see the last few Striders home, I missed the free crisps on offer.
We assembled at the promenade nearby for essential rehydration and calorie replenishment activities, marvelling at the light lunch ordered by Kelly Collier (I’m not sure if they provide step-ladders for those burgers but I did notice that Ally Dixon opted for an alternate menu choice). The proximity of our car allowed us to escape without much delay to recover our children, whilst the others waited for the bus return.
I thoroughly enjoyed the scenic aspect of this race and the weather conditions were kind being warm and fairly still. The organisation of the race by Sunderland Strollers was faultless and should provide a template for others to follow. We should all be proud of the camaraderie of our club, which was a great boost throughout the day, and an evident source of encouragement to the many first timers and more experienced participants alike.
I ran 11.1km and my chip time was 1:01:50 – lets see if next year I manage to break 1 hour! I’d recommend Pier to Pier to anyone and road shoes are fine!
|1||862||Andy Burn (Jarrow & Hebburn AC)||m||men||37:15|
|14||1111||Alyson Dixon (Sunderland Strollers)||w||Women||41:29|
|22||293||Michael Littlewood||m||Seniors M40||43:05|
|38||767||Simon Gardner||m||Seniors M40||45:25|
|89||208||Paul Swinburne||m||Seniors M40||48:30|
|198||324||John Hutchinson||m||Seniors M60||52:42|
|212||768||Shaun Roberts||m||Seniors M50||53:09|
|296||755||Sarah Davies||w||Seniors W40||55:37|
|343||134||Lesley Charman||w||Seniors W40||57:24|
|388||444||Peter McGowan||m||Seniors M50||58:19|
|397||91||Craig Walker||m||Seniors M50||58:32|
|434||26||Andrew Davies||m||Seniors M40||59:23|
|436||78||Tim Matthews||m||Seniors M50||59:25|
|449||783||Douglas Nisbet||m||Seniors M50||59:44|
|464||553||Stephen Ellis||m||Seniors M60||1:00:13|
|486||3||David Spence||m||Seniors M60||1:00:46|
|534||917||Jonathan Hamill||m||Seniors M40||1:01:50|
|557||245||Mike Parker||m||Seniors M40||1:02:29|
|591||31||Karen Metters||w||Seniors W40||1:03:37|
|651||1124||Claire Hunt||w||Seniors W50||1:05:21|
|727||96||Lesley Hamill||w||Seniors W40||1:07:28|
|756||361||Catherine Smith||w||Seniors W40||1:08:22|
|769||116||Angela Robson||w||Seniors W40||1:08:48|
|783||1093||Stan White||m||Seniors M50||1:09:17|
|794||248||Gareth Cardus||m||Seniors M40||1:09:28|
|796||223||George Nicholson||m||Seniors M60||1:09:29|
|837||128||David Beacham||m||Seniors M50||1:10:53|
|852||939||Jane Dowsett||w||Seniors W40||1:11:34|
|859||1114||Karen Chalkley||w||Seniors W50||1:11:53|
|860||554||Janet Ellis||w||Seniors W50||1:11:58|
|865||1002||Debra Thompson||w||Seniors W50||1:12:11|
|872||125||Christine Farnsworth||w||Seniors W60||1:12:22|
|881||592||Andrew Thurston||m||Seniors M50||1:12:47|
|903||260||Aileen Scott||w||Seniors W40||1:13:23|
|909||473||Alison Heslop||w||Seniors W40||1:13:36|
|924||30||Helen Thomas||w||Seniors W40||1:13:57|
|930||7||Andy James||m||Seniors M60||1:14:10|
|958||439||Louise Simpson||w||Seniors W40||1:15:29|
|1012||567||David Arnott||m||Seniors M60||1:19:21|
|1027||780||Alison Simms||w||Seniors W40||1:20:00|
|1066||1033||Diane Soulsby||w||Seniors W50||1:23:10|
|1094||784||Pauline Elliott||w||Seniors W50||1:27:56|
|1107||776||Karen Middlemiss||w||Seniors W40||1:30:37|
|1121||234||Neil Jennings||m||Seniors M50||1:35:27|
|1127||235||Elaine Jennings||w||Seniors W50||1:41:34|